Being a bird is a daily fight for survival. The effort needed to find food to consume needs to be less than the energy the food will provide. When food is scarce the journeys get longer and the return gets lower. There is a terrible attrition of birds that guess badly. It’s also the season which sees ‘irruptions’ as whole species collectively decide to make dramatic journeys across seas to find food. Often the driver is a sudden downturn in weather.
Why am I telling you this? Because on Saturday I went birding. I walked for miles with a heavy telescope in the cold and spotted signposts to a place to get a cup of tea and something to eat.
Bake180 Coffee Shop is located in the Courtyard adjacent to Middleton Hall – an extraordinary part-French chateau/part-Tudor Manor House set in the Warwickshire countryside. It is painted in pastel shades and looked pretty busy – just what we were looking for.
A quick glance at the specials board clinched it – one item was being rubbed off as we reached the counter but Pitta Bread with Lamb and Mint remained. I had a peppermint tea to go with it. Because we were wearing muddy boots and because we had bulky tripods with us we decided to sit outside; we were wrapped up we’ll because of the weather. Within ten minutes the tray arrived with the teas. Milk was served in cute little glass milk bottles – it augured well. Neighbouring tables suddenly had hot chocolates which looked terrific in strange mugs which could take a screw cap. The young waiter looked very unsteady on his feet and not the most communicative – a tray could hit the deck at any moment. Another twenty minutes went by and it gave us a chance to look at the other shops – in particular the cheese and ale specialist offering chips shop curry-flavoured and garlic and mushroom-flavoured cheese. After enquiring we were told by the young waiter that they had a few orders in the kitchen and they were preparing ours as soon as they could.
We could see that other people were arriving and having cake and understandably they were being served first. It was getting colder and gloomier and we thought that if we had been advised of the delays we may have chosen differently. No matter, it was being freshly prepared and surely couldn’t be much longer.
When it finally arrived after 45 minutes our tea was long since finished. It was incredibly underwhelming. The cooking involved heating a pitta bread. Everything else on the plate was cold. I may be doing them a disservice and I apologise if I’m wrong but I think the pitta ingredients were a standard shop-bought sandwich filling. It was even bulked out with chunks of little gem lettuce. The side salad was a very dull effort with a balsamic dressing. There was also a pot of mayonnaise which served no purpose at all. I will say that it was relatively inexpensive but it certainly wasn’t a ‘Special’.
I wouldn’t have minded if we had been told about the wait when we ordered. I wouldn’t have minded if the tea and the pitta had arrived remotely close to each other. I wouldn’t have scrutinised the pitta with the same detail. What I objected to was sitting in the cold for almost an hour. I suspect the inexperience of the staff contributed to the misfiring but it’s no excuse. Other reasons could be a kitchen which isn’t big enough to deal with the number of covers (if this is the case it will stand no chance in the summer when all the tables are full) or understaffing.
If I was a bird I would have perished because in that hour the weather closed in, the sky darkened and we walked the mile and half back to the car in constant freezing rain!